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GODS, DEVILS, AND MEN                        65

people's hard life is an official's shame. I see hundreds of workmen
lugging one piece of lumber, and yet at every step forward they have
to pause for rest. The rations are barely enough to keep their stomachs
filled. That leaves no time to worry about other things. I am glad
that the work is now over, and I wish my vessel were made of better
clay. Soon there will be high winds in September, and I am going to
roam on the western hills, to let one day of happiness make up for a
life of toiling days."

In December, 1064, he was relieved of his post. His wife's elder
brother had come from Szechuen to stay with them, and the family
returned to the capital in January of the following year. Usually, at the
end of three years' service, a local official was put through a review of
his records, called mofym, literally meaning "the grind". On the "basis
of such a review an official would receive recommendations for other
appointments. Now that Tungpo was back, Tseyu could be relieved
and he very soon departed to serve as a magistrate at Tamingfu up in
the north, then called the Northern Capital or "Peking", but actually
over a hundred miles south of the present Peiping.

The new emperor, Ingtsung, had heard of Su Tungpo's fame and
wanted to make an exception of him and promote him at once to the
post of a hanlin serving as secretary to the Emperor in charge of drafting
edicts. Premier Han Chi opposed this step and advised the Emperor
that, for the good of Su Tungpo, the young poet should be allowed to
^.mature his talents and not suddenly come into a position of such high
eminence. The Emperor then suggested that perhaps he might be put
in charge of recording the official proceedings of the palace. Again the
premier objected, saying that such a post was too close to that of an
imperial secretary. He recommended some post hi the cultural and
educational departments and suggested that Su Tungpo be submitted
to the regular tests for such a post. "We give a test,'* said the Emperor,
"only when we do not know a person's real talents. Why should we
test Su Tungpo?" But the premier had his way, Su was put to the
tests, and again he passed and was given a post in the department
of history. In this department, officials took turns working in the
imperial library, and Su Tungpo was delighted at the opportunity of
looking at the rare books, manuscripts, and paintings in the imperial

That year, in May, Su Tungpo's wife died at the age of twenty-six,
leaving him a son six years old. His father said to him: "Your wife has
followed you and lived with you without being able to enjoy success
with you. You should bury her together with her mother-in-law." On
the tenth anniversary of his wife's death, Su wrote an exquisite poem
revealing his sentiments about her, full of a strange, ghostly beauty and
a haunting music which unfortunately cannot be reproduced.